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Exercise and Diabetes

Reduce your risk of diabetes with exercise


Updated June 10, 2010

Diabetes is a big concern these days, mainly because so many of us either have it or are at risk for getting it. The increase in diabetes is related to the rise in obesity over the last few years, but there is something you can do about it. Regular cardio and strength training exercise, along with a healthy diet can help you avoid Type 2 diabetes.

What Is Diabetes?

Type 1 is usually diagnosed in children and occurs when the body does not produce insulin which is necessary for the body to be able to use sugar. Type 2 is more common and happens when the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin or can't use the insulin it does produce. The biggest risk factor for getting Type 2 diabetes is being obese (around 20% over your ideal body weight) since you force your pancreas to work overtime. You're also at risk if someone in your family has it, if you're over 65, if you're African American, Latino, Native American or Asian American and if you have high cholesterol. Over time, diabetes can cause nerve, kidney and heart damage.

The Symptoms

Most folks with Type 1 are diagnosed early. With Type 2, it may be more difficult to diagnose simply because, for the sufferers, the symptoms seem relatively harmless. The following are typical symptoms of diabetes and should be taken seriously:

  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme hunger
  • Excessive thirst
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Dry skin
  • Increased fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Blurry vision

Take this diabetes risk test at Diabetes.org to find out your risk.

How Exercise Can Help

Exercise is just one thing you can do to control your weight. Are there specific exercises you should do? Not really. Choose any cardio exercise (walking, running, cycling, aerobics classes, skating, tennis, etc.)--anything that raises your heart rate. Lifting weights is a critical component of an effective weight loss program since muscle burns more calories than fat. You don't have to train like Arnold to get solid, strong muscles. Just 2-3 days a week for 30 minutes or so is enough. Your doctor can help you with weight loss resources or you can go the expert route and hire a personal trainer. Make sure your trainer has education and experience in working with diabetics. To get started on your exercise program, start at the Beginner's Corner or head over to the Workout Center for ideas for your workouts.

Safety First

Obviously, blood sugar levels are critical no matter what type of diabetes you have. Exercise can effect your blood sugar, so pay attention to possible warning flags during your workout such as:

  • change in heartbeat
  • start sweating more
  • feel shaky, anxious or hungry
  • dizziness

Your doctor can tell you what to do in this situation and may suggest you keep candy or juice nearby to treat hypoglycemia.

Related Video
Simple Exercise Warm Up

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